Books on Slovakia
Update No: 117 - (22/02/07)
Slovakia bestrides the world stage
The Slovaks can hardly believe their new situation in the world.
Fifteen years ago they did not even have a country, being the junior partner in
Czechoslovakia, which itself only eluded the embrace of communism and the Warsaw
Pact in 1989.
Now Slovakia has assumed the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security
Council (UNSC) this year. This has given it a prime opportunity to open up
closer relations with the coming colossus of the world economy, which ironically
still remains formally communist, the People's Republic of China. As former
comrades the Slovaks have a special understanding of the Chinese predicament
The Bratislava-Beijing axis
Dialogue and cooperation are key concepts in the relationship between Slovakia
and China, said the Slovak prime minister on February 6th on arriving in
Beijing. "It is our task and responsibility to support the strategic
relationship between the European Union (EU) and China," said Robert Fico,
whose country is now a member of the EU as well.
"Genuine partnership between China and the EU is crucial for global
stability and sustainable development in a multi-polar world," Fico told
China Daily in an exclusive interview at the Slovak embassy in Beijing. Fico
also said the shared views between the two countries, such as on the nuclear
programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) offer more chances
to work together.
Fico said joining the European Union was a wise and historic step for his
country. The experience of Slovakia showed that membership of the EU is
beneficial. "That's why I appreciate China's position of supporting the
integration of other countries into the union," he said. "A country in
the union means stability in the region. That is why countries such as Croatia
and other States in the Balkans should be adopted by this organization as soon
Fico said he appreciated China's call for the establishment of a harmonious
society both at home and abroad. "Slovakia is among the countries that
support solving all problems and tensions, first of all, by dialogue and
negotiation, not by using arms immediately," Fico said. "Slovakia
withdrew soldiers from Iraq because we believe the problems in Iraq should be
solved in a completely different way." Bratislava and Beijing certainly see
Then followed the usual bromides appropriate for the occasion. In a world
plagued by violence, the idea of establishing a harmonious society focused on
respect, understanding and sharing, "should be welcomed by the
international community", he said. "From the perspective of stability
and security we recognize the unique position and influence of China, and we
would like to continue our good cooperation with China as a trusted partner and
responsible international player through various forums, including our common
Fico said economic issues were at the top of his cabinet's agenda, which was
one of the reasons he was visiting China. "I believe that my visit to China
will contribute significantly to the economic dimension of foreign policy
between Slovakia and China."
Chinese-Slovak economic cooperation has been growing in recent years. Statistics
from the Ministry of Commerce show that the trade volume between China and
Slovakia amounted to US$913.68 million last year, up 85.9 per cent from the year
Slovak exports to China were worth US$220 million last year, almost twice as
much as in 2005, according to statistics provided by Slovak Embassy in Beijing.
By contrast they were worth only US$4 million in 1998.
Slovakia exports metallurgical products, raw materials, chemical products and
healthcare technology to China. It imports Chinese textiles and garments,
leather products and household appliances.
"There is room for Slovak exporters to enhance their commercial relations
with their Chinese partners in such fields as road construction, electrical
equipment technologies for oil and gas equipment," Fico said.
Slovakia's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a rate of 7.9 per cent last
Fico said he expected that impressive growth to continue into this year.
"The year of 2007 can be the most successful year in the history of
Slovakia from an economic point of view," he said.
Invitation to invest
Fico said he would like to see more Chinese high-tech firms invest in his
country. "We certainly support the interest of some Chinese companies to
start or increase their business activities in Slovakia in high value-added
At a business forum, Fico invited Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Slovakia,
promising to provide favourable tax policies and a sound investment environment.
The Czech Republic has so far attracted far more Chinese investment than
Slovakia. But FDI into the latter is growing massively, with Slovakia becoming
known as the Detroit of Europe.
Fico was on a five-day visit to China, his first since he took office in
September, and his fifth since 1999. He compared his experiences of Shanghai in
2001 and 2003 and said he was surprised. "I could not follow Shanghai in
these two years," he said. "So I can only congratulate China for what
people are doing in this country."
Fico said people in Slovakia did not have much information about China, and
highlighted the need to organize more exchanges of people, especially in the
form of tourism. "My experiences in China are fantastic, and I will be a
messenger of good news from China to Slovakia," he said.
The Bratislava-Brussels axis
Closer to home Slovakia is already receiving vital support, namely from
The European Commission (EC) is ready to financially support Slovakia in its
upcoming educational campaign for the adoption of the euro in 2009, Ján Figel,
Slovak EU commissioner for education, said on Feb. 5. The EC might cover up to
half of the campaign's costs, he added.
"Since January the EC has been ready to help Slovakia with its
communication strategy. We view it as our common interest, a very important part
of the preparation [for euro adoption]," Figel said. The campaign to inform
the public about the changeover from the Slovak crown to the euro should cost
5.4 million Euro (Kc 152 million), according to Slovak National Bank Governor (SNB)
Communicating to the public is one of the areas in which Slovakia has lagged
behind in its euro adoption efforts, the Slovak Ministry of Finance said in a
report to the government. Slovakia has so far failed to choose an advertising
agency to run the information campaign, and a special Internet page focusing on
euro adoption hasn't been launched yet. The ministry said it was certain
Slovakia would manage to cope with the delay.
The previous government of Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda agreed on 2009 as
the year Slovakia would introduce the euro. The current Cabinet of Prime
Minister Robert Fico has supported the planned date, though Fico's Smer party
questioned it before the June 2006 general elections.
Figel repeated the EC's previous statement that Slovakia should use its current
steep economic growth to improve its macroeconomic results in order to create a
bigger reserve for fulfilling the euro adoption criteria. For the time being
Slovakia has all prerequisites to meet the year 2009 as its euro adoption
deadline, Figel said.
PSA signs collective agreement with employees
The management of the Trnava-based car plant PSA Peugeot Citroen Slovakia signed
a collective agreement for 2007-2009 with the company's KOVO trade union
representatives recently, New Europe reported.
"The two parties agreed on a seven-per cent average wage growth this year.
The company pledged itself to create a social fund amounting to approximately 15
million Slovak crowns in 2007, which will be preferably used for meal benefits,
health care, and recreation of employees," the head of the PSA
communication department, Peter Svec, said. According to Svec, the number of
produced cars will correspond with the market demands. He specified that over
51,000 cars rolled off the production lines during the gradual onset of serial
production and two-shift operation. The factory launched serial production in
June 2006. Current daily output is almost 700 vehicles.
IT investments exceed US$1bn in 2006
An analysis carried out by IDC, an international IT market research company,
reported that investments in information technologies (IT) exceeded US$ one
billion in Slovakia in 2006, an 11 per cent increase from the US$980 million
recorded in 2005, Slovak Spectator reported recently.
The survey showed that high economic growth in Slovakia in 2006 along with
privatisation sales and foreign direct investments boosted spending on both
basic and advanced IT products and equipment. "IT services took the top
spot on Slovakia's IT market, and are currently producing higher revenues than
servers, data storage systems, and computers put together," said IDC
analyst, Arun Chandramohan. On a sectoral basis, the survey revealed that the
biggest IT investments in 2006 were made by the communications sector, followed
by the government and banks.
T-Mobile Slovensko expects record results for 2006
Based on preliminary data, Telecommunications Company T-Mobile Slovensko
achieved record results for 2006 from the viewpoint of total revenues and EBITDA,
and it ended the year with 2.2 million customers, New Europe recently.
The share of post-paid customers increased to 44 per cent of the client base,
the company informed.
According to estimates of T-Mobile Slovensko, its market share at the end of
last year was 45 per cent.
Market penetration by September 30th 2006 was 87 per cent when two operators in
the mobile telecommunications market in Slovakia, Orange and T-Mobile together
had 4.679 million customers. However, both operators are using different
methodology for reporting the number of active customers, which also influences
market share estimates.